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Lou Reed - Top 25 (Solo)

Practically all the abrasive, edgy, intense, and vulgar music I came up listening to owes a serious debt of gratitude to the late great Lou Reed. And I’m not just talking about rock/alternative/metal/industrial music, but even hip-hop and rap to a certain degree, at least when it comes to subject matter and delivery.

I’ve always looked up to artists who were truly individuals, who made music outside the norm, ignored popular trends, and made uncompromising music. Individuals who were true to themselves, who were brutally honest and fearless, and made music that stood out from the pack. What Lou Reed & co. did in the late 60s with the Velvet Underground is the epitome of that concept, and their status of one of the greatest and most influential bands of all-time has long been cemented. Lou Reed was one of the first artists to explore the darker side of music, exposing the raw underbelly of urban life through tales of drug-addiction, S&M, transvestite junkies, etc. And he did it so honestly and poetically, it was often times unflinchingly abrasive and bleak but equally beautiful depending on the song. Hell, sometimes he did all of that in the same song (i.e. “Heroin”). After the VU broke-up, Lou Reed carried on and stood out as one of the best solo artist of the 70s, by releasing several high quality albums that managed to stay true to himself, continuing to explore themes of urban decay in all its beautiful and explicit decadence.

Lou Reed was also, at times, incredibly corny (i.e. “Perfect Day”, “Satellite of Love”, “Underneath the Bottle”, etc), but that was part of his appeal. That’s who he was, that was part of his honesty as an artist, and part of his unique style. At the end of the day, for all his corny moments, Lou Reed was still one bad motherfucker. He didn’t give a F, and he made music his way.

Personally, I’ve always felt a unique connection when listening to Lou Reed’s music, particularly with the VU’s self-titled 3rd album, which is my personal favorite Lou Reed album of all-time. It’s like the calm after the storm, a warm, somber, calm, comforting album after a long decedent night (White Light/White Heat). That album is one of my favorite aural companions.   When I’m on the train to work, or when I used to take the bus, when I’m wondering around downtown on my lunch break, when I would sit at Pier 1 in San Francisco overlooking the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, or generally whenever I used to wake-up with a splitting head-ache for whatever reason, the VU’s 3rd album was always there.

And in my Chicago days, Transformer was an album I listened to a lot during my first few months in my new city, and it features (spoiler alert) my personal favorite Lou Reed song of all-time “Walk On The Wild Side”. I’ve loved that song since I was a kid, so not only is it my favorite Lou Reed song, but it’s in my Top 20 of all-time, and likely always will be.

Going back to albums, the too often overlooked Coney Island Baby is easily my favorite solo Lou Reed record. That album, more than any of his other solo records, stands out as my Chicago soundtrack, for running errands in the city, taking the bus, transferring to the L, and hitting the pavement.   It’s a borderline great album, it’s warm, easy to listen to, and has good variety. And, for when I just completely feel like shit for whatever reason, Street Hassle is a great, raw, sloppy, gritty album to throw-on here and there, because no matter how bad I feel, I’ll never feel as shitty as Street Hassle (and I say that affectionately). It’s a great soundtrack to the concrete jungle.

And that’s what I think of when I think of Lou Reed’s music: the concrete jungle. A celebration of its characters, its grime, its decay, its harshness, and its beauty. My admiration and respect for Lou Reed is tremendous, and he will be dearly missed by yours truly. But like all the greats, he will live on forever through his music, so here are my personal favorite Top 25 Lou Reed songs of all-time. R.I.P. Lou.

#25 - Legendary Hearts (1983)

 

#24 - Hangin' Round (1972)

 

#23 - Satellite of Love (1972)

 

#22 - Last Great American Whale (1989)

 

#21 - Dirt (1978)

 

#20 - Good Evening Mr. Waldheim (1989)

 

#19 - There Is No Time (1989)

 

#18 - Wagon Wheel (1972)

 

#17 - Andy's Chest

 

#16 - Sick of You (1989)

 

#15 - Beginning of a Great Adventure (1989)

 

#14 - The Gun (1982)

 

#13 - Vicious (1972)

 

#12 - Street Hassle (1978)

 

#11 - Hold On (1989)

 

#10 - Leave Me Alone (1976)

 

#9 - Crazy Feeling (1976)

 

#8 - Kicks (1976)

 

#7 - Busload of Faith (1989)

 

#6 - She's My Best Friend (1976)

 

#5 - Charley's Girl (1976)

 

#4 - A Gift (1976)

 

#3 - Endless Cycle (1989)

 

#2 - Dirty Blvd (1989)

 

#1 - Walk On The Wild Side (1972)

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